A New Kind of Small Group

By Pastor Tom Anderson



Small groups are one of the most frequently endorsed and least understood pieces of the Christian life. Research into church life has consistently shown that one of the key drivers of congregational vitality is the number of small groups. But not all small groups are created equal! There are three basic categories of small groups within churches.


First there are affinity groups based on a common interest or life circumstance: a hobby, an age group, gender or racial support groups. Cooking clubs, bowling clubs or singles groups fit into this category. These groups provide connection, fellowship, and emotional support. They are places to meet new people and interact with others. Every church has some of these groups and they often form naturally from the membership. But such groups do little to form or mature people in their discipleship.


Second, there are information-driven groups. This is the most common of small groups within churches today. These would be primarily Bible and book studies that use a curriculum and meet regularly. These groups focus on the importance of having the right knowledge for Christian living. They aim at establishing a basic Bible and doctrinal literacy as foundational to the Christian life. But the emphasis on information often overshadows the application to daily life and moral transformation within a believer’s life.


The third type of group is transformation-driven. Such groups focus on changed lives and a common experience of God. This was the heartbeat of the “class meetings” that John Wesley formed among the early Methodists and became the genius of the Methodist revival. Somewhere along the way this type of life-transformation group was eclipsed by the information-driven groups that dominate modern church life. Yet it is these groups that are the most effective in making and maturing disciples of Jesus Christ.


Dr. Kevin Watson writes, “Ultimately, we cannot stand still or tread water in the Christian Life. We are either moving closer toward God and learning to better love our neighbor, or we are missing opportunities to further express our love for God and neighbor and gradually moving away from God. The goal of every Christian should be to become a disciple, a follower, of Jesus Christ. People do not learn how to follow Jesus by reading books about following Jesus. We learn how to follow Jesus by following him, even if by fits and starts.”


This fall we’re launching an 8 week training class for a new kind of small group focused on life-transformation. We call them Thrive Groups. Leaders will not be teaching but facilitating conversations using the principles laid out by John Wesley himself. We’ll be using “The Class Meeting: Reclaiming a Forgotten and Essential Small Group Experience” by Kevin M. Watson. Following this training these new Thrive Groups will launch! The vision is for these new groups to meet weekly off-site: in homes, lunch-rooms, restaurants and coffee shops. We are looking for 12 mature and motivated believers who love Jesus, want to become more like Jesus, and want to help others on the same journey. Reflect on it. Pray about it. If this fits you, contact me, I’d love to have you as part of this team. Join in prayer that Thrive Groups will be an important piece in revival in our church and spiritual awakening in our community!